Warning: This work has been rated 18+.
Jud would have liked to answer her with a lecture about no matter the crime first concerned, you won’t make it better by stealing something back. If they took the items from the basement now, there would be no way of proving the Lucreskis had a hand in a holy crime. It was evidently one thing to slaughter your own people – it was another thing to steal artifacts from the Church of the planet you were at war with.
“I think a god might have an issue with you taking these blocks back.”
“These pieces belong to the Church of Nerot.”
“Ehri, it just can’t be done.”
There was no quick way to explain it, paining Jud to tell her, “I have no definite answer to that question.”
They left the basement maze without another exchange, collecting their tools from the entrance and leaving as quietly as they had come. Jud kept his lips sealed as they drove back to the office, reading all of the waves coming off of the thoughts in Harry’s mind and choosing to keep his silence. The vehicle was quickly unpacked, and the partners went their separate ways into the offices, Harry upstairs to her rooms and Jud down to the junior detectives.
Jimmy Harding was the first to rise and do the near salute as Jud managed to make it through their door. He quickly found a waiting bench and signaled for a glass of water from attending staff.
“Mr. Huff, what are you doing back so soon?”
“We just didn’t find what we were looking for.”
“Better luck next time?”
Jud took the glass of water from the offered tray, quickly offering thanks and turning his eyes back to Harding’s desk. The young detective had distinctive stacks of cases to be done, a friendly reminder that Harding was next on the promotion list whenever Harry felt the need to move someone upstairs.
“Perhaps, if there is a next time.”
Harding’s eyes moved to one of the stacks on the desks, silently flipping through scene photographs of a brutal robbery earlier in the week. The details were vague, but Jud remembered one of the recovered knives, how it dripped in blood from how many times the perpetrators had stabbed the store keeper.
Maybe it was the details like that tempting him to hang up his hat once more and return a promise to his grandchildren.
Jimmy swirled cold coffee around in a chipped porcelain cup while asking, “What do you mean by that?”
“I might retire.”
In the boy’s mind, Jud could feel him laughing at the statement of retirement. Everyone in the office knew how many times Jud had considered retirement. And most of them had heard about it more than once when he got frustrated with a case or an urge from Ria. Saying that Jud would retire was far more insane than saying that Harry would retire. At this point, he was tied into the business and had no escape from his duties.
“Oh, don’t give me that look, Jimmy. You’re the one who keeps track of the office birthday parties and you know exactly how ancient I am.”
Harding tried to hide his tells, failing as his third eye gave away a wink, and his hands quickly fell over the body part.
“You didn’t see that, Mr. Huff.”
“I didn’t need your body to give it away when I already know what’s happening. It’s helpful but not necessary.”
If Harry was there, she would surely be hearing the exchange of swear words between the two parties, told only through glares at one another. Jud could feel the anger from the young man, probably once again assuming that he wasn’t getting anywhere in the world for having what Zinnia considered an extraneous body part. If anything, it was the boy’s temper holding him back.
“Harding, make a note.”
Jud waited a few moments for the detective to collect a piece of paper and a pen before beginning his statement.
“Huff taking early lunch.”
The detective quickly scribbled out the note, looking up to Jud for further prompt and asking, “When will you be returning, sir?”
Harding put the pad down to the desk, and instead set about helping Jud put his coat and hat back on. Jud hadn’t remembered taking the ensemble off when stepping through the door, but it must have happened out of habit.
“Would you like me to make a note of your absence?”
“No, Jimmy, I think they’ll figure it out.”
“Oh, of course, sir.”
With a renewed strength, Jud quickly climbed the stairs up to the second floor. Ria was still sitting in the kitchen with Will, either moved back after he and Harry initially left or removed by the angst of Harry’s return.
“Ria! Let’s go!”
Xe looked up from the table, one hand locked in Will’s and the other mindlessly turning magazine pages. There came a slight amount of fear off of the situation and Will’s predictable motions as a protector. His voice had come off a bit strong, but Jud had never cared for how Will assumed Ria was a precious thing in need of protection.
“Why?What’s the rush?”
“The case didn’t work out and I thought we could take an early day.”
Jud moved around to the other side of the table, sighing while thinking about how to get his husband to move. One arm slid around Ria’s waist and lips left gentle kisses along Ria’s neck. Will eyed him carefully, a wish of death in her eyes and a hand at her hip to a concealed knife.
Ria turned up to him, saying, “Jud, what are you doing?”
“Am I not allowed to kiss my husband?”
“Well you are but not like this. Not in public.”
It was the moments like these that reminded Jud of the place he had taken Ria from. The turned out child of a family from royalty who did not meet the state standards and had turned to the Federation from help. And through so many channels, turned over to Jud’s department, as it seemed he got all of the troublesome cases.
“So, you’ll leave with me then? If you think I’m being too obscene in public.”
Will suddenly joined the conversation to say, “That is not at all what xe said.”
“That is exactly what my husband has said to me and I do not see how this is your place to intercede. I’m sure that Ria has told you of our news and you put it upon yourself, Thankless, to assume that xe is a victim of my raging crimes.”
Jud pulled Ria out of the chair with enough strength to encourage them to move but not hurt xyr arm. He could feel the burning fire coming off of Will, tempted to call Harry down to deal with his “brute” self but also not wishing to admit any judgements. Once they reached the elevator, Ria pulled loose of his grip and turned to face Jud in the confined space.
“Was that really necessary, love? She already thinks enough bad things about you.”
“I know. And one day I want to see her break in front of Ehri, so that everyone knows what kind of person Willard Thankless can be.”
Ria stepped out of the elevator first, locating the car in the company garage and sliding into the drivers’ side.
“You know how I feel about public affection, Jud.”
“I know how you were raised, and I know that your society does not care for affection in general. How would your parents care for me kissing you at a sports game on a broadcast camera?”
Xer parents had not attended the wedding. None of their family had bothered to show up to see the union deemed very unholy. It wasn’t a matter of Jud being that old, that was commonplace in Ria’s world. It was Jud being a holy man and Ria being a disgrace to xer family, they had no family as far as anyone was concerned.
“I’m sorry, darling. I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I do wonder if I had a child if my mother would let me back in. They approved of you, just not as someone marrying me – they couldn’t think of why someone would possibly want to love me.”
Each time they had a discussion like this it brought tears to Jud’s eyes, wondering how Ria could still love their parents, even after all the things those people had done. For Harry, it was quite a different matter. Harry hated her mother with every fiber of her existence and her father was not a hero, but an equal ruler of their kingdom. How was it that Ria maintained family honor in such a submissive way?
“And I can’t possibly think of a reason while they believed you didn’t deserve love.”
“Jud, you know exactly why.”
Jud quickly ran a hand through their hair, saying, “You are extremely beautiful. And you can never doubt that.”
“I do not fit their standards, no matter how much you love and praise me.”
The drive out of town to their little house in the countryside took nearly an hour, time filled by Ria quizzing him about the details of the case. Jud slowly picked apart all of the things that they knew, and all of the empty questions left for dynamics. A big case like this could do lots of good things for the firm, which had begun taking on organized crime related tasks, no matter how much Will had objected. If they brought down a big smuggling ring, that would be a redeeming moment for Roth & Morrow as upholders as justice.
Even if the old boys were a million times dirtier than Harry and Jud would ever manage to be.